Shared Gifting Cohorts

"In my many years of grant writing, I have never seen or engaged in anything like this before. To be trusted with this [grantmaking] fund, and to see us all working together to meet each other's needs with it, honoring each other's work, and make funding decisions in a way that truly does not feel competitive or harmful... I wish more organizations adopted this model of grantmaking."

- 2024 Shared Gifting Circle retreat participant 

History & Key Learnings  

The History of Our Cohorts 

In 2020, the Grassroots Fund set out to create two new funds within the organization, in concert with other partners: one focused on building power amongst BIPOC-led, New England-based food systems organizers, and the other focused on engaging Boston-based community organizers more deeply in climate resilience efforts.

Above Figure: Map with pinpoints representing communities that have received funding through our Cohort Programs. 

The funds would establish two new multi-year Shared Learning & Shared Gifting opportunities for 20+ food systems & climate organizations in New England: The Food Systems Resilience Fund Cohort and the Community-Led Climate Resilience in Boston Cohort, respectively. 

Grassroots Fund continues to support climate resilience & food systems organizers across New England through our Cohort programs, with an emphasis on supporting BIPOC led + BIPOC serving organizations who have limited access to monetary resources – without strict requirements on organizational tax status. For a more detailed overview of our vision for our Cohorts, see the attached Visioning Statements below:

2024 Community-Led Climate Resilience in Boston Cohort Visioning Statement 2024 Food Systems Resilience Fund Cohort Visioning Statement 

Key Learnings from our Cohorts

Grassroots Fund seeks to effectively create participatory grantmaking spaces that lean away from competition and scarcity-mindset amongst participatory grantmakers. 

We know that traditional grantmaking cycles can cause harm, and by engaging in active feedback loops with participants and facilitating participatory grantmaking processes that are based and build upon relationships and trust, we work to proactively prevent, minimize, and – when needed – address harm caused through the Cohorts’ grantmaking processes. 

Our approach to organizing these Cohorts is consistently evaluated and evolved with close direction by participant organizers, to be more aligned not only with the Grassroots Fund Guiding Practices, but also with the expressed desires, needs, and priorities of the organizers the Cohorts engage. 

We continue to amend and co-create this model with participating organizers who are already centering equity in their work.

Since first engaging the Cohorts in 2020, we have learned:
  • Relationship building can be used as a tool for creating more equitable participatory grantmaking processes. This includes trust-building between decision makers and between participants & funders. 
  • In order to engage in more equity-driven work, participatory grantmaking must evolve into directly community-led and grassroots-led grantmaking. Decision-making power must be held within the communities in which the Fund is intended to impact. 
  • Setting values-informed Funding Priorities is a strategy that can be used to align Shared Gifting Circle participants. In our experience, identifying overlapping Values and desired Funding Priorities for participants’ Cohort-directed funds have acted as “North Stars” the day of decision-making.    
  • The opportunity for grassroots organizers to convene in a supportive space is transformational on its own. Independent collaborations and skill shares among participants have come into fruition as a result of community convenings, and the impact of this program extends far beyond its 12-month Cohort model. 
  • Grassroots organizers have an urgent need for multi-year funding opportunities like these. Grants from these Cohorts come without restrictions and are made available to participant organizations, without requiring a 501(c)3 tax status.

Community-Led Climate Resilience in Boston Cohort

The Community-Led Climate Resilience in Boston Cohort was founded in partnership with the Barr Foundation in 2020. At the time, the Cohort’s purpose was to pilot the Shared Gifting Circle grantmaking method while supporting developing climate resilience efforts in Greater Boston.

While participatory grantmaking continues to be at the heart of this Cohort, it has become a program where participants come as experienced community organizers with a desire to embed climate resilience into their organizing work, but leave as organizers with the tangible knowledge, skills, and practical experience to be successful doing so.

Through workshops, a participatory grantmaking experience, discussions and multi-year engagement with a peer-supported network of like minded organizations who all have a similar goal of connecting their work to climate change, the Cohort liasons community leaders into the climate sphere.

List of Cohort Participants 

Food Systems Resilience Fund Cohort 

Grassroots Fund set out to create the Food Systems Resilience Fund (FSRF) Cohort in Fall of 2020 to build a cohort of grassroots food systems organizers focused on regional food system equity, in an attempt to better support grassroots organizations in New England who face barriers to resourcing their work through traditional funding channels while in pursuit of more sustainable food systems in New England.

The central purpose of the Food Systems Resilience Fund (FSRF) Cohort at Grassroots Fund is to strengthen the resilience of our region’s food systems, with an emphasis on supporting the work of BIPOC-led organizers. 

We do this by facilitating the building of power amongst New England-based food systems organizers through engagement in online and in-person convenings, workshops, and an annual relationship-based participatory grantmaking experience, where participants collectively distribute a Cohort-directed grant pool amongst each other. 

" One of the biggest impacts of this Cohort is the fact that Grassroots Fund trusts us, as community organizers, to know exactly what our communities need -- I haven't seen anything like it. This trust is so gratifying. It gives me hope for a future of our food systems work, and is transformational for our organization long-term. Participating in this Cohort gives us a feeling of freedom and hope. 
- 2024 FSRF Participant  

List of 2023 Cohort Alumni  

List of 2024 Cohort Participants  

Grantee Highlight 

Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE)

  Pictured to the left, NUBE organizers lead the 2024 Community-Led Climate Resilience in Boston Cohort in a discussion around the intersection of access to green space, climate change, and ecoracism in East Boston.

This was organized in preparation for the Cohort's June 2024 community convening, in response to NUBE's desire to showcase their work to their peers and to draw deeper connections amongst each other's advocacy work & the key environmental issues each other are facing.

Participants also exchanged strategies for climate organizing and discussed opportunities for future collaboration. Cohort members are encouraged and supported in leading workshops for one another, and we look forward to hosting more in-person convenings for participants to connect with one another and build coalition together. 

How to Stay Connected

While these cohorts are no longer an open-call for grant applications, we appreciate your interest in our Cohort programs, and hope you will look out for additional ways to be involved with Grassroots Fund in the future. We also continue to fund food systems and climate resilience work through our other grant programs. 

Sign Up for our Newsletter Explore All Grant Programs 

For general questions about our Cohorts, or to learn how to best support this work, contact Grants Program Manager Jazz Toyama.

Note: All photographs are courtesey of Michelle Schapiro Photography.